Monday, May 31, 2010

Weltenburg Brewery

Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous day outside and what did we do, a picnic, go to the park, nope we hopped in our car took a ride about 90 minutes south of here to visit a Benedictine Monastary and in Germany that means only one thing, beer. God bless those monks. The brewery we visted was the Weltenburg Kloster brewery We went down to Kelheim and got on a river boat, took a leisurely 40 minute cruise on the Danube River where we got an early taste of the beer whose brewery we were going to visit and ate a light lunch. We hoped off the boat right at noon and went inside to find out about the tours. The 1230 tour was full so we asked for the next one which was at 2pm. We wandered around the monastery, looked in the beautiful chapel and finally found a seat in the beer garden, where I tried two more of the monastary's excellent beers and plate of wurst and potatoes in a cream sauce. Shantel split a plate of french fires with Macen and had a Radler. Everything was excellent.

The time for our tour finally came and despite the fact that 90% of it was in Germany it was really interesting. The brewery is a completely modernized/computerized operation. Our guide, Josef, was exceptionally knowledgeable and kept apologizing for his poor English. His English was still better than my German and he provided simple explanations of what we were seeing in English so Shantel and I could follow along. Josef did let us know that some time later this summer the brewery plans on having English text or placards to hand out to their German challanged visitors, so they get a better explanation.

About halfway through the tour we got to sample their Hefe Weissen, the Anno 1050, the Asam Bock, and the multiple World Beer Cup award winning Barock Dunkel. We finished up the tour got our complimentary 12 oz glasses and then we let Macen play on the rock beach on the river before we returned back to the boat for the quick trip back to the car and then home to Vilseck.
The monastery was founded in the 600s and it is thought that the monks started brewing beer there in 1050, some people claim this to be the oldest monastery brewery in the world something that is disputed by the Weihenstephan Brewery which claims to have been founded in 768 and licensed as a brewery in 1040. I really don't care which one is the oldest because they both brew darn good beers.
I hope all of our family and friends have enjoyed this post because this is probably one of the places that we will take you to if you come to visit. It was just too cool to not share.
Here are some more pictures.

The view from the river boat as we approached the monastery. If you aren't into biking or running, I really recommend taking the boat cruise instead of driving there.

This crest was on the tank on the main floor. The inscription says For Mary and Jesus. See God really does want us to drink beer, or at least the monks say so.

A couple of pictures of the brewing area. Josef our guide was very knowledge and did his best to give us a quick English run down.

The area where the barley is stored and then poured into the brewing vats.

The two glasses were what we sampled beer the beer from during the tour and got to keep. The stone bierkrug in the middle is something I bought. I'm a sucker for cool beer mugs and I really like the German stone ones.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Daddy's Boy

These were taken last week in Venice and I love them.

Macen has gotten to be quite the daddy's boy and I think he is going to have a hard time with the upcoming year long deployment. We have been trying to explain to him daddy will have to leave for a long time to help other people and we know he doesn't fully understand. However, his emotions are showing us he does comprehend a big change is coming. He gets very emotional when we tell him no, like no he can't have fruit snacks in the afternoon (its an out of town treat for him). A month ago, he wouldn't have had an emotional breakdown over it. He would whine and do his fake crying and then get over it. We are getting tears and inconsolable fits. I'm sure some of it is his age and developmental changes he has been going through lately but it really started when we began to tell him often that daddy will have to go away soon. He knows life will be changing soon.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Venice Day 3 - Murano Island

Murano Island

We went out to an island just off of Venice where they do a lot of glass blowing. These items are sold worldwide. We were disappointed though. We imagined shop after shop of glass items for sale and we had a hard time finding stores. It seemed to be more of a residential island than anything. Don't get me wrong, we did find shopping but we thought it would be streets lined with shops. We had already decided we wanted to buy some winestoppers with the blown glass on top so we were shopping for those. We just weren't impressed with any we saw so we waited to go back to Venice to purchase some. But before we left, we did get to watch a glass blowing demonstration. It was pretty interesting to see the liquid glass form and melt and be shaped.

Wandering around

This is front of a wooden toy store which was really nice. James insisted I pose with the chick hanging out front.

We were also on the hunt for a chocolate store this afternoon. We had success and failure! We found a nice little store where I got to choose the pieces we wanted and I got an assortment. And none of them were very good! As James said, Italy isn't known for their chocolate. I guess I need to stick to the gelato while in Italy. Speaking of chocolate though, we had a layover in Zurich, Switzerland and they serve chocolate when they offer the beverage service! Wow! And it was really good chocolate and it was a nice serving nice! Since all 4 of our flights were with Swiss Air, we got their chocolate 4 times. Macen loved it and was trying to swiped James' chocolate when his was gone. Did I mention it was really good chocolate...

Macen was playing with James new hat during dinner. We had amazing food while in Venice, of course. Who doesn't love pizza and pasta?! In Venice (and this may be true for other places in Italy), they charge you a cover charge or sitting fee when you sit down in a restaurant. Typically its 3.50 Euro per person. So for the 3 of us to sit and eat it would have been nearly an additional $15 added to the bill. We knew this before going so we were on the lookout for it. We did find a few restaurants who didn't charge this seating fee. Other times we just found a little joint where you take your food to go - much cheaper and no seating fees. One of these places, we found amazing brushetta pizza. It was a crispy crust with olive oil and piled with onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and olives. We found it the first day we were there and loved it so much we went back a second time.

James got an iPad for his birthday and brought it along. There is a deer hunter game on it that Macen loves. He has learned how to work the iPad and the game all by himself. Here is James and Macen fighting over the game during our layover.
We had a great vacation....FINALLY! As James said, the weather was perfect. We were surrounded by water which we love. We had amazing food and lots of ice cream. It was relaxing and not rushed. I guess we should have known it was going to be great because all day Monday during our travels and atleast once a day Macen said "Wow! This is gonna be fun"

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Venice Day 2

The gondolas are covered nightly. This was first thing in the morning when not many people are out and about. When researching info about Venice, I read a lot of people saying to get out early in the morning before all the tourists are out. Well they weren't kidding! It was difficult to walk in St Mark's Square because there were sooooo many people in Venice. And not only that but a lot of the time you'd run into large tour groups with a guide. Try getting through/around those people, lol.

Macen started his morning off with chasing pigeons, AGAIN.

St. Mark's Basilica

We couldn't take pictures inside so this is the sum of it. Very beautiful!

Campanile di San Marco

We took an elevator to the top of bell tower to get a view of the city. We were among the first group to go up at 9am and the bells were ringing. Macen didn't like it and kept saying "Let's get outta here"

St. Mark's Square

The city

Doge's Palace


We made it our goal to try as much as the gelato as we could. It was everywhere and if I remember correctly we tried strawberry, lemon, chocolate, cookies n cream, caramel, dolce latte, stracciatella, and mint. Strawberry or lemon ended up being our favorite - it was a toss up because it was perfect warm weather and those flavors were perfect after walking around everywhere. Macen even had some and he has refused ice cream the last couple of summers.

Basilica St Maria del Salute

On the steps in front of the church. Macen loved playing on these steps.

We actually went to this church the previous day but by the time we got there it was closed so we went back. We could take pics without flash. There was a mass that afternoon while we walked through it.

Macen took this pic of us on the side of the church on a bridge. He is quite the photographer!


This is what the alleys looked like. You just walk from alley to alley, bridge to bridge to get where you are going. Some alleys are very small, maybe enough for 2 people to walk shoulder to shoulder and others are wider. Also in my research, a lot of people said don't have an iterinary just walk around and see Venice for what it is away from the tourists. We did a good job of that getting lost several times (as much as you can get lost on a small island) and we enjoyed wandering around, taking it all in.

The weather is beautiful, the food is good, the ice cream cold and delicious and we are having a wonderful time. The only problem is that my camera's battery is dead and we didn't bring the USB cord for Shantel's camera so you are going to have wait for the rest of the vacation pictures and stories until this weekend when we have recovered from our vacation.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Venice Day 1- Cont'd

Doge's Palace

View from the interior of the bridge.

The Bridge of Sighs
Hard Rock Cafe

The view we had from our table at Hard Rock. Apparently, this is the most popular spot to catch a gondola ride ans were we got on our gondola.

Gondola Ride

I was trying to get all 3 of us on the ride but I failed as you can see. While we were eating and watching others get their cruise, there was a photographer taking pics you could buy and if you wanted a bottle of wine for the cruise, they had some on hand for an additional price. We decided prior to the ride we wanted the pic and the bottle of wine. The photographer disappeared about 2 couples in front of us and they ran out of wine right before our turn to get on a gondola.

We went under a bridge here. There are over a hundred bridges in Venice connecting you from one neighborhood and canal to another. All different kinds of bridges - wooden, wrought iron, brick, long, short, wide, etc.

View of the Rialto Bridge from the gondola.

Rialto Bridge

Views of the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge

Smaller canal

I really like this pic. It's something you see constantly throughout Venice and it just looks calm and peaceful.

This is the hotel we stayed at with an entrance to arrive by water taxi. We didn't opt for this mode of transportation due to the outrageous cost of it. They pick you up at the airport and its about a 30-40 min ride to the entryway for 50-100 Euro. I read various prices but translated to dollars it wasn't going to be under $60. The water bus worked great for us and for much less.